How a product gets made

Download the PDF of the Sew Valley process.


Research + DEsign

The Goal of this process is to get a cost sample*. Sew Valley can use this to quote a price per unit if producing more than one unit is the desired outcome. The following are the specific steps needed to be taken in the design process. 

Lead Time
Our current lead time is approximately 2-3 per step in the design process. This is contingent on our production schedule at Sew Valley and suppliers lead times.

Sketches + Design Concepts
Gather inspirational and aspirational images from books and the Internet to help communicate your ideas. For us to start, we need to have a clear idea of your desires for the construction of the product. Having a technical sketch/design is ideal.

Sourcing + Costing 
Sometimes a D/E (designer/entrepreneur) knows what the material it is they want to use, others start with a concept but need consultation on what kind of material is appropriate. Either way is fine! If you don’t know where to get your fabric or trims, just ask! We’ll help you determine what and from where you should buy based on your target demographic and at what price makes sense for your product. You are responsible for purchasing all materials and having them sent to SV, except for select prototyping supplies.

It is the D/E’s responsibility to know what their target retail or wholesale price point is so we can guide you through the costing process with reasonable expectations. 

Sample Development
Sample Development includes assessing the sketch and making a pattern block* that will be used for the first prototype. This usually made of a cheaper material that acts like the real thing. The prototype is then reviewed and changes are made to the pattern based on desired outcome, fit, and fabric assessment. Our pattern makers and sample makers work together with you to save time and money! 

After a prototype is approved, we need actual sample fabric and trims to begin making a more refined sample that could have many iterations until we reach a 'cost sample'. A cost sample is the final approved sample that we time assembly to give you a true cost to produce quantities.

Pattern Development
Development includes assessing the sketch and making a pattern block that will be used for the first prototype. We use your standard size to create the first pattern. If you are offering your item in XS-XL we will create a Medium pattern for all samples. This changes per size range. If you wish to have a wider size range, 2 block patterns may be required in order to get the correct fit and proportion. Flat paper patterns are done by hand in our sample room by a professional pattern maker. Refined and approved patterns get digitized and graded using CAD software.

The first prototype is mock up of the pattern, verifying fit and drape. This is usually made of a cheaper material that acts like the real thing. The prototype is then reviewed and changes are made to the pattern based on desired outcome, fit, and fabric assessment. Our pattern makers and sample makers work together with you to save time and money!

After a prototype is approved, we need sample fabric and trims to begin making a more refined sample that could have many iterations until we reach a ‘cost sample’ or ‘sew by sample’. A cost sample is the final approved sample that we time assembly to give you a true cost to produce quantities. A sew by sample is the same unit and will be used as reference for the production team.

Fittings + Revisions
Fittings are considered billable hours and are conducted with the sample maker and the D/E to determine what revisions need to happen. We also provide guidance and insight during these sessions to help you make the best decisions for production. Sometime it takes two or three revisions to get to a final sample.

Converting a paper pattern to a digitally manipulated file for efficiency when making changes and for future use. Required step before grading using digital software.

Grading is the highly technical process of growing a pattern or shrinking a pattern to form a size run (XS–XL). This is done in specialized computer software for accuracy. The cost is based on how many unique pieces your pattern consists of. 

Marker Making
Creating a marker is done in computer software that arranges your pattern pieces the most efficiently to fit the size of your fabric. Resulting in less fabric waste and quicker cutting times. The price of this step will include market making as well as printing fees. You will need to know how many units you want to produce before we can quote market making and printing.

Tech Pack Development
If a D/E plans to sell a high quantity of units and need to connect with a high volume factory, a tech pack is a universal tool (usually a detailed multi page spreadsheet) that will explain exactly what your product is and what your expectations for the piece is. It usually has a technical sketch that calls out details and even photos of samples on a body. It explains types of stitches, the size run, and critical measurements for quality control and consistency.  

If the production quantity is over 100 per style, you will need to find a higher volume factory to produce your pieces. Ask the factory if they require a tech pack. We can help you through this process!

Sample Size Run
We do not require this, however, it is effective in checking that your style is graded to your liking and allows you to fit test your garment to get market feedback before going into production. The sample rate of $55 an hour will apply. 

Sew Valley Production


Small Batch Production [More than 10 and under 100 units per style]
[Our MOQ is 10 units per style and under 100 units per style] Our facility is set up to aid a D/E looking for small batch production. We do not make one-off custom pieces for personal use. However, we can connect you with a contract sewer who may be able to.

Price Breaks at 50 units
After a cost sample is made, we are able to determine a price per unit  and provide price break for units between 50-100 per style. 

Lead Time
Our current lead time is approximately 6-10 weeks. This is contingent on our production schedule at Sew Valley and suppliers lead times. We require your production deposit (50% of your order) in order to begin. 

Materials and Supplies
We do not provide materials for production.  We can assist you in finding suppliers, but it will be your responsibility to purchase and ship all materials necessary. Please expect to buy extra for 10% mess-up’s and defects in your material. It’s normal!

We are a small batch facility that focuses on ethically made garments. We take the time to create proper markers to get the most out of your fabric and produce the least waste possible. Our prices are based on the time it takes our sewers to sew up one unit at a time. This method helps ensure quality is consistent and gives our employees ownership/pride and increases skills for there future. Prices are subject to change from one “run” to the next depending on the results. We keep accurate records and may suggest design changes to help reduce production time. 

Once your order is complete we require 50% balance due on shipment or pick up, plus any extra costs that have incurred.

*Upon request, we can provide you with details on the amount of waste your style produced.


Terms to know before getting started

Below are a few term definitions that will be helpful as you start the design and production processes. 


D/E [Designer/Entrepreneur]
In this design and production process your title is the D/E. Designer/Entrepreneur and is equivalent to  the term manufacturer. You are the manufacturer of your line. 

Sketch Sheet
Any sketch is a good sketch. How does it look from the front, side, back, top, open, closed, etc? Sketch close up details as well as the whole garment.

Cost Sample
This is a Sew Valley term to describe the sample needed to determine how much a price per unit will cost a D/E. No matter how far along in the process you are, you should expect to have a cost sample made.

Style Reference Number
Give the product a style number. This is mostly beneficial for the contractors, buyers, reps, and other people you might be working with. A style number is a number used to describe and keep track of a design. Naming a style is for marketing purposes only. 

Block or Sloper or Basic Style: A block is the middle size (usually medium) in the size scale chosen. This will become the standard pattern that reflects the sizing and styling of a manufacturer. It is the starting point for protos (prototypes) and samples. 

A block then gets graded up or down. See graphic below. 

Making the block smaller and larger to make all the sizes in the size scale. 

Size Scale
(XS-XL) Know your target market to know your size scale. 


Screen Shot 2018-06-07 at 12.41.57 PM.png

What is the product? A basic description is needed to describe what the product is. Zipper hoodie? Wrap dress? Short sleeved jumpsuit? 

What season is the product getting shown for the first time. Spring/Summer or Fall/Winter? This will determine timeline for the process. 

Materials Per Style
Once the type of product and season is determined, fabrics need to be chosen. Terms to know when deciding the fabric:
Color: Name and lot # if possible
Shell: ('Self’ fabric) the main body
Contrast: Second most used fabric in the product
Trim: Bindings
Closures: Buttons, snaps, zippers
Guts: Anything used inside the structure, like interfacing, canvas, or foam

Market + Timeline
Knowing where and when you are planning on selling your line will determine the delivery date in which production must be finished. Start there and work backwards to determine your schedule.

Depending on the project, not all of the services may be necessary. To get a better idea of what the needs of your project fill out “Interested in Production Services?” form found at the right side of our Contact Us page.

Please be courteous and wait for an appointment date to be made before showing up.


Other resources

Many of the terms and definitions here are credited to Kathleen Fasnella at the Fashion Incubator as well as internal Sew Valley industry knowledge, experience and expertise. Fashion Incubator is a great resources and comes highly recommended as a primer to manufacturing sewn products.  

Some other resources we love: 
Dayton Sewing Collaborative
Dayton Garment and Textile District
Maker's Row
The Pattern Maker


Interested in learning more in person? 

Join us for our bi-monthly educational seminar: From Idea To Product